I need help with "Layout" as in UI interface layout.

Here are few sentences with context using layout, I've added confusing part into quotation marks

  1. A child window is "laid out" by the layout manager?
  2. Layout manager "lays out" child windows?
  3. A child window was "laid out" by the layout manager?

You see my problem is that "laid" can also mean you know what, I don't want to confuse layout grammar with getting l**d.

So my question is grammar about layout in those 3 sample sentences above, that is, are those 3 samples correct and if not what would be correct use case?

EDIT: I think suggested alternatives from comment such design, generate, construct instead of laying out are not applicable because:

  • design would refer to look and feel of elements.
  • construction would refer to constructing an element prior layout.
  • and generating again would assume creating child components prior layout.
  • The grammar is incorrect by omitting 'the' before 'layout manager'. The vocabulary could be configure, construct, generate, design... May 8, 2023 at 9:24
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    The verb to lay has many senses. You don't need to worry about the slang expression get laid - it is obvious from the context that you don't mean that. May 8, 2023 at 9:38
  • @WeatherVane thanks, I've edited my question to account for the mistake, however none of the suggested words (construct, design etc.) are applicable IMO May 8, 2023 at 9:39
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    I know nothing about UI design, but they look OK to me. May 8, 2023 at 9:55
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    Why not just use a "generic" verb with the noun layout? For example, a layout manager implements the layout of the child windows. In some contexts, instantiates would work better, but these are both "standard" verbs for the software-based context. Using a specific verb like to lay out strikes me as a bit "anthropocentric" for the context, anyway. May 8, 2023 at 10:02

2 Answers 2


From Oracle's documentation:

A BorderLayout places components ...

The BoxLayout class puts components ...

FlowLayout ... simply lays out components ...

In another place:

A flow layout arranges components ...

It looks like it really doesn't matter how to call what a layout manager does.

If you use "lay out", it looks a bit clumsy to me, because the correct phrasing is "lay components out" and not "lay out components". This modifies the already unusual phrasal verb even further, so in complex sentences the meaning might be harder to get.

So, in my opinion, you should use the other synonyms (e.g. arrange), but not because you want to avoid a situation where your components "get laid out".


Unless it's actually referring to physically placing several things on a flat surface in some physical pattern (with the invited inference that the things being placed are themselves flat, like paper), the noun layout, formed from the phrasal verb lay out, is a Metaphor.

This can be easily seen from examples

  • {He laid out all the silver/He laid all the silver out} on the table.
  • He put the silver on the table, using his own personal layout.
  • When your bet is called, you may {lay out your hand/lay your hand out} for inspection.

Nominalizing the action of laying things out in a pattern produces a noun referring to the pattern they're laid out in. So it's a general abstract metaphor suitable for referring to an image composed of smaller images, like a map, or a blueprint, or a story (conceived of as writing), or an album, or anything at all, including a military campaign, an advertising campaign, a political campaign, or any list.

That's a lot of things that can be laid out, and various layouts they can be in. The usefulness of the metaphor depends on its abstractness, and on its generalization to cover any sort of thinking and any sort of actions by referring to some pattern (which is not always stated).

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